“All Over Washington”
That’s the catch phrase of TBD.com, the new website that was launched last August with much fanfare. The site is an effort by Allbritton Communications, the company that owns Politico and several television stations, including ABC affiliate WJLA. TBD was going to be a new kind of journalism, “hyper local,” covering every inch of Washington, D.C.
Almost five months later, it’s clear that TBD is indeed all over something. But it ain’t Washington.
TBD.com is gay. Very, very gay. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that — or rather there wouldn’t be, if TBD was simply gay. But TBD is gay and leftist, and that makes it hectoring and didactic, not to mention journalistically compromised.
But before getting to TBD gayness, it’s important to make something clear. Washington, D.C. has a large gay population — and that’s just Andrew Sullivan (bada-BOOM!). The gay people who live here, like everyone else who lives here, do interesting things that should be covered by any media outlet that claims to do journalism.
But there are other people here, too. There are orthodox Jews, and Catholics, and Muslims. There are conservative writers and thinkers. There are gospel choirs. There are people with interesting hobbies. There are entire sections of town where things that are not necessarily gay-related take place. The problem is not that TBD is covering gays. It’s that TBD is covering gays the way liberals always cover gays — as propaganda, advocacy, and shrieking, fact-challenged agitprop. This, after all, is the place that fired veteran journalist Doug McKelway for arguing with a gay activist on air (McKelway went to Fox).
When the Senate voted to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” TBD literally ordered its readers to go out and celebrate. “IT’S FREAKING DADT [Don’t Ask Don’t Tell] #TBDNight!” blogger Jenny Rogers cried. “Forget that it’s gray and 32 degrees outside! The Senate has just voted to repeal the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy by a vote of 65-31. It is your patriotic duty to mark this historic moment by going out!”
What happened over the next several hours exemplified the perils of real-time advocacy journalism. Jenny Rogers did her damndest to drum up some partying for the repeal of DADT — but there was no story there. Here is the timeline for some of her live blogs:
4:15 DADT celebration update: Nellie’s on U Street says “we’re certainly welcoming everyone to come celebrate with us, but we haven’t laid out anything specific.”
4:25 Consider marking today’s historic Senate vote with a festive cocktail at Busboys & Poets. Tonight’s special drink: the Moulin Rouge. A mix of blood orange juice, Earl Grey tea, Bluecoat gin, simple syrup, and cranberry juice, the Moulin Rouge is priced at a reasonable $7. What is Bluecoat gin? Glad you asked. According to the company’s website, it’s a gin distilled with juniper berries, citrus peels, and “other organic botanicals.” You’re promised a gin with a “revolutionary spirit” that is “distinctive and superior in character.” Sounds patriotic.
4:30 BREAKING SPORTS UPDATE: The Washington Wizards have traded shooting guard Gilbert Arenas to the Orlando Magic for Rashard Lewis. I don’t really know who these people are but gather that this is important. More to come.
4:35 DADT celebration update: Popular gay bar and restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City promises that “something big” will be happening at the establishment tonight to mark today’s Senate vote. What that big something is remains unconfirmed. Stay tuned.
4:43 White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the repeal of DADT will “strengthen our national security while upholding the basic equality on which this nation was founded.” Sounds great, but Commissary isn’t offering any specials noting the occasion. The hostess tells TBD, though, that “we are happy about it.”
4:50 Ok, so Nellie’s isn’t celebrating the repeal of DADT per se, but they are hosting dueling birthday parties.
Recognize a pattern here? The Senate repeals “don’t ask, don’t tell,” TBD.com, braces itself for the ensuing bacchanal — indeed it demands that people go out and party — and….nothing happens. (What the “something big” was at Freddie’s Beach Bar was never confirmed.)
At this point, advocate Rogers — whom I expected to get in her car and start dragging people out of their homes — has to bring out the heavy guns. Thank God for the Gay Men’s Chorus.
5:02 For those looking to mark the occasion of DADT’s repeal or just looking for a festive time at the ballet, you are in luck. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performs A Pink Nutcracker tonight at 8 p.m. TBD’s Maura Judkis describes the pageantry as “one part serious choral performance, one part drag show” and reports that Sugar Daddies are featured instead of marzipan and Clara has morphed into Clarence.
That posting was accompanied by a picture:
This same picture was also used on the front page of the TBD website.
Last week, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by Matthew Franck, Director of the William E. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution. Franck’s piece argued against labeling any and every opponent of sex-sex marriage as a “hater.” Franck gives several examples of college professors who were reported and, in some cases, lost their jobs for defending traditional marriage — one professor, Kenneth Howell, is a Catholic who simply explained Catholic teaching on the natural law. Franck also criticized the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “report” claiming that pro-family groups like Focus on the Family are “hate groups.” He went on to cite the propaganda for homosexuality in the popular culture, and note how any dissent from the gay marriage freight train is instantly rejected as “hate.”
For TBD’s sex columnists Amanda Hess, this is just too much. She writes:
In the service of [his] argument, Franck] places scare-quotes around a “report” with which he does not agree; he accuses CBS sitcom “$#*! My Dad Says” of participating in a vast campaign to undermine “traditional views of sexual morality” with the help of “cultural bastions controlled by the left”; he cites an Internet comment as representative of the discourse on the issue; he complains that opposition to gay marriage has been publicly compared to its obvious corollaries, like anti-miscegenation laws; he celebrates as “rational” a college professor who asserts in an e-mail to his students, “in a sexual relationship between two men, one of them tends to act as the ‘woman’ while the other acts as the ‘man'”; and he just makes some stuff up. Franck writes that he is concerned that proponents of same-sex marriage are attempting to stop conversation on the morality of homosexuality. He fears that his opponents want to “settle” the marriage debate once and for all. He argues that gay marriage activists are running a campaign to “marginalize, privatize, anathematize” his viewpoint. Has there any been a better argument for ending the back-and-forth over this issue than Franck’s own piece?
This is not the face of homosexuality. It is the face of liberal fascism. If someone makes an argument you don’t like, it’s simple: ignore the examples they provide (yeah, Hollywood is absolutely neutral on the issue of gay rights — and internet comments, a.k.a. Andrew Sullivan, are never legitimate examples of gay hate speech), accuse the person of using “scare quotes” while using them yourself, cherry-pick sentences from the accused to make him look bad, and then accuse him of “making stuff up.” But the most chilling part comes at the end, when Hess declares that it is simply time to shut down debate on this issue. Cultural bastions controlled by the left? Whatever do you mean?
So: when someone writes an essay claiming that hysterical lefty gay activists demonize their opponents and fascistically try to shut down debate, no matter how much that debate is grounded in reason and the natural law, you respond by declaring them pariahs, their arguments out of bounds, and an end to any discussion on the matter.
TBD.com. All over Dupont Circle.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.